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European Innovation Scoreboard 2009 – still improving but until when?

The European Innovation Scoreboard, recently released for 2009, comparatively assesses, on behalf of the Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry of the European Commission, the innovative performance of European countries for the ninth year in a row. The 2009 EIS is based on the same methodology as the 2008 edition, published last year, and covers the same number of countries (ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, February 2009).

Based on their innovation performance measured against 29 indicators, the 27 EU member states fall within four distinct groups: 1) innovation leaders; 2) innovation followers; 3) moderate innovators; and 4) catching-up countries. The composition of the first group, the frontrunners, is the same as in 2008, with a non-EU country, Switzerland, still in the lead. Within this privileged group UK and Denmark seem to be stagnating, while Germany, Finland and Sweden are improving their performance at a faster speed.

The report highlights that while, overall, the EU27 has improved its innovation performance, this positive trend might be threatened by the economic crisis, particularly in moderate innovators and catching-up countries. The 2009 EIS captures no possible impact of the crisis, however, as most data are from 2007 and 2008. Nevertheless, the 2009 Innobarometer survey warns that the fast advances in innovation capacity might not be sustainable, at least in the short-term.

If in 2008 Europe was narrowing the ‘innovation gap’ with the US and Japan, in 2009 this progress has ceased or even reversed. Within the BRIC countries, China is certainly the top innovator. While still lagging-behind, judging from the country's advances over the past five years, China might manage to close its ‘performance gap’ with the EU27 in the not too distant future, provided that the trend is continued.